Thursday, May 14, 2009

Television Outlines: 'Incarnate' Part Four

Forgot to answer Dan's question, which was:

Any idea on the budget? No Heroics was very low, but this sounds like it would need a Doctor Who-style commitment to me!

Well exactly. And really the only people who'd be able to do it properly, and let me keep the tone I want (satirical, sort-of-darkish, occasionally a bit rude), are the BBC. So I had effectively one egg, and only one basket in which to put it.

To recap:

Word had gone out from the BBC that they were in the market for something sort of like Heroes.

I had submitted a superhero concept amongst some other ideas I had sent in to the television production company Carnival.

This was just about to be commissioned as a treatment, when we found out a series called NO HEROICS (a superhero sitcom) was about to be made.

In a moment of what can only be described as pure blind heroism, Carnival's head of development decided to commission my outline as a treatment anyway, because she really liked the sound of it.

I then reworked the concept twice: the first time as practically a different series altogether, the second as closer to the core idea, but now with a buddy element, with the older, wiser hero to be played by Stephen Mangan. I then handed the treatment in to Carnival, who sent it off to the BBC's indie-commissioning department (nothing to do with baggy cardigans or The Smiths - they're the department who deal with all the various independent production companies).

Top funny actor and all-round nice man Stephen Mangan agreed to be attached to the project.

We then discovered that Paul Cornell (writer of some cracking Doctor Who episodes, as well as the current, and rather thrilling, Captain Britain series for Marvel Comics), and Joe Ahearne (creator of equally rather thrilling Ultraviolet, amongst others) also had a superhero series in development. Shiiiiiiiiiiiit.

(Btw -Paul's blog post on his prospective show is here, and there's a brief interview with Joe Aherne here. Both sound Quite Good)

The finest BBC script editors could not have found a way to ratchet up the tension any better. With everything at stake for our anxious hero, (in this case, me) who would win the gladiatorial fight for first place?

As far as I know, nobody. Because the response from the BBC was this (and I'm paraphrasing, because it was a phone call to Carnival, the contents of which were passed on to me in another phone call):

"We think that Heroes has covered the superhero territory sufficiently that there isn't really room for something in the same genre. However, please feel free to pass on other work by James, as we are always interested in new writers."


Tomorrow: the post-mortem.


Adaddinsane said...

Not that I'd put myself in the same league by any means - but I also heard the word on the BBC and superheroes and put an earlier draft of "Monsters" about to a couple of prodcos.

But I was too late on the news (and too early with "Monsters") I got the same message back about "Heroes" doing it all. (Ha!)

pseudontai said...

What?! That's crap. What's wrong with them?

Anonymous said...



Dan said...

Heh. Typical. Pre-Heroes, the BBC would have balked at the cost and fact "superheroes" is a silly, niche venture only suitable for Children's BBC. Post-Heroes, the BBC are happy to just buy Heroes.

Maybe the idea can be scavenged for a comic-book run, or perhaps even a novel, if all else fails? Might be easier to sell the BBC the chance to premiere an adaptation of a best-selling book/comic.

Or perhaps try Sky? They're having a push for original drama right now, and a lot of it has been genre stuff (Terry Pratchett's, Skellig). It may be out of their price-range, though, as you say. Could it be adjusted into a two-hour one-off for Christmas? :-)

Karen's Mouth said...

Oh for goodness sake. But Heroes is now rubbish and doesn't have abandoned tube stations in it. Or Stephen Mangan.

Matt Gibbs said...

I like Dan's idea of turning it into a graphic novel, would like to see where you would take the story.

Does that happen a lot when the BBC puts out calls, going full circle?

Lucy V said...

The answer is simple: nuke the BBC, then go into business yourself as a one man broadcaster. Now you have a baby, you don't get to go to sleep anymore, reckon you could have it all sorted inside of a week.

James Henry said...

Aww, thanks for people saying nice things - will address the 'what next' questions tomorrow, as ironically I am working on three different treatments today (all for the BBC, now I think about it, so let's not nuke anyone today).

Boz said...


James Henry said...

Aladinnsane: if you're writing treatments, and having then refjected, then baby, we're all in the same league.

Marsha Klein said...

Oh, how disappointing! I thought the 'twat-teen' v. world-weary adult was a really original and wonderfully British take on superheroes.

Newf said...

Oh, I like that attitude - "we don't need new ideas; we have Heroes." By that logic, they should cut out new sci-fi ideas too. And any new ideas that involve pounding three colossal American 25-episode series into two years.

James, I wanna know how close these kind of experiences are to this:

Anonymous said...

"We think that Heroes has covered the superhero territory sufficiently that there isn't really room for something in the same genre. However, please feel free to pass on other work by James, as we are always interested in new writers."

That's EXACTLY what Babylon 5 creator JMS was told when he pitched B5 to everyone who would take his meetings: Star Trek is the only space show people will watch.

Right. Except B5. And apparently Battlestar Gallactica... ect